…Callisto’s origin?

While the mutant Callisto, created by Chris Claremont and Paul Smith, was introduced in Uncanny X-Men #169 as leader of the Morlocks, a large group of mutants that had fled from human persecution into the tunnels beneath New York City where they had formed their own community, her history prior to her founding of the Morlocks remained shrouded in mystery for the ensuing hundred issues.

However, while this appears to be the case on the surface, a plot regarded as one of the most disturbing – and obscure – of Claremont’s entire run on the title, appears to provide some valuable clues upon a second viewing.

Consider that the scenes in Uncanny X-Men #259 showing Callisto transformed into a beautiful supermodel [by Masque]…

Figure 01_UXM259_Masque tormentFigure 02_UXM259_Billboard modelFigure 03_UXM259_Model in trouble

…were actually intended by Chris Claremont to hint at the founder of the Morlocks’ original appearance.

This would finally explain the scene in Uncanny X-Men #191, when new mutant, Dani Moonstar, shows Callisto her greatest fear by projecting an image of the attractive woman she once was…

Figure 04_UXM191_Callisto before mutant powers

…and the cryptic scene in #260 with the gang of thugs pursuing her down a dark alley…

Figure 05_UXM260_Model fight back

…was hinting at the event which brought about her mutant abilities.

I’d therefore suggest that when still a supermodel, prior to her mutant powers manifesting, the young woman that became Callisto was pursued by a gang of thugs on the streets at night.  She tries to struggle against their attack but, while she had learned a number of self-defence moves, she was just not built for physical combat.

However, given Claremont’s penchant for revealing mutants’ powers primarily manifesting in life-threatening situations (e.g. Sam Guthrie), I’d further suggest the assault caused her body to transform into that of a hardened warrior…

Figure 06_UXM170_Callisto's powers

…which enabled her to fight off her attackers… but at the price of losing her looks, and modelling career in the process.

This would appear to explain why Claremont named her Callisto.  That is, Callisto, meaning “most beautiful”, was the lovely nymph in Greek mythology that was raped by Zeus and subsequently transformed into a bestial form.

However, the myth goes a step further, and Callisto becomes pregnant as a result of the sexual assault.

So did Claremont intend to reveal that, in addition to manifesting her mutant abilities, Callisto became pregnant as a result of the attack?  If so, where is that child now?

I have some ideas…

Given the bestial form Callisto was transformed into in the myth was a bear, does this provide some clue as to the identity of her child?

It is worth noting that the original version of the name Cheney, Cheynne, means “little Cree” (French) à “little Cris” (Canadian French) à “little Bear” (Greek).  A long way to go about it, but it is there:)

We know Callisto spoke with a British argot (e.g. Uncanny X-Men #211 when she calls the dying Morlock, Annalee, a “dear old duffer”).

Figure 06_UXM211_Callisto's argot

We also know Lila Cheney similarly used British slang.

Figure 07_NMA01_Lila Cheney's accent

So given Cheney’s name means “Little Bear”, it would seem she was intended by Claremont to be the child resulting from Callisto’s assault.

I kind of like the idea that Callisto is Lila Cheney’s mother.  It ties two Claremont characters without origins together.  And they never met during his run.

The only further detail Claremont provided for Lila Cheney’s origins during his run was that someone on Earth had sold her…

Figure 08_NMA01_Earth sold Lila CheneyFigure 09_NM29_Lila stolen and sold

…to an alien who had forced her to participate in intergalactic gladiator tournaments!

Figure 10_NM29_Lila reveals was gladiator

The most logical villain from Claremont’s run to have orchestrated the abduction of Lila as a baby would seem to be Mister Sinister, what with his modus operandi of having mutant children kidnapped (Nanny not having been created at this point).

Figure 11_UXM215_Madelyne Pryor pursued by Marauders

As to the alien, with Lila’s powers working on the basis that she must have previously been to a particular location in order to teleport there later, and given that we find her teleporting across the Imperium in Uncanny X-Men #269…

Figure 12a_UXM269_Lila teleporting across Shi'ar Imperium_a

…and Uncanny X-Men #274-277…

Figure 12b_UXM276_Lila teleporting across Shi'ar ImperiumFigure 12c_UXM276_Lila teleporting across Shi'ar ImperiumFigure 12d_UXM277_Lila teleporting across Shi'ar Imperium

…I’d propose Shi’ar “Big Bad,” the Emperor D’Ken!

Figure 13_UXM156_D'Ken most likely alien Sinister sold Lila to

As to why Mister Sinister would sell Lila to D’Ken, I’d suggest he did so in order to gain Shi’ar technology, specifically an incubation-accelerator… similar to the one Davan Shakari/ Eric the Red had used to age Magneto in X-Men #104…

Figure 14_UXM104_Shi'ar age accelerator

…which he could use to accelerate his clones to adulthood, like he had with Madelyne Pryor.

Figure 15_UXM240_Mister Sinister's age accelerator

And don’t panic, I’m not avoiding addressing the perpetrators of Callisto’s original assault which led to the manifestation of her mutant abilities (and Lila;).  So let us return to the first hint of such an event, Uncanny X-Men #260.  Most fans will agree with me here that there is something extremely disturbing about the scene in this issue when it becomes clear that the group of attackers are wearing X-Men masks.

Figure 16_UXM260_Peter Nicholas fighting off Callisto's attackers

When viewed on the surface, nothing about the sequence makes any sense.  With the previous issue launching this particular storyline with Masque torturing Callisto, one could argue it was him who sent the attackers.  However, if he did, why did they need to wear masks when Masque could have easily changed their faces with his powers?  Also, Masque certainly couldn’t have known what Psylocke’s new helmeted mask looked like since Betsy had only been wearing her armoured costume since the X-Men had become invisible to electronic scanners and he’d not encountered them since before this time.

Figure 17_UXM232_Psylocke's armour

It’s worth noting here that Masque’s behaviour in this story arc is so much more psychologically sophisticated in its cruelty than anything we’ve previously seen from him – and his use of limousines and organising for Callisto to appear on billboards – such a high-class, highly-financed operation would be out of the league of an outcast who lives in the sewers. Such a scheme is more in keeping with the modus operandi of a villain like Farouk who was previously shown to run various legitimate nightclubs, etc. (e.g. the Fat Karma storyline).

As for the attackers wearing masks, while it could be argued this was Peter Nicholas’ subconscious trying to remind him of his identity as the X-Man, Colossus, the “vision” is also noted by Phillip Moreau.

Figure 18_UXM260_Phillip Moreau sees X-Men masks

I’d therefore alternatively suggest Peter seeing X-Men masks on the faces of Callisto’s attackers was not his subconscious but instead the mutant Aborigine, Gateway, contacting him via the Dreamtime.  The hallucinatory effect of the scene echoes back to Psylocke’s experience in Uncanny X-Men #250, and Madelyne Pryor’s in the lead-up to Inferno. Recall at this point Gateway was imprisoned by the Shadow King (cf. Uncanny X-Men #250 and 253) in his efforts to control the Dreamtime.

Figure 19_UXM250-253_Shadow King controlling DreamtimeGateway’s “Dreamtime” contact to Peter was dual-purposed, firstly as suggested above his effort to speed up the recovery from his amnesia after passing through the Siege Perilous (so he could be restored as Colossus in preparation for the coming battle with the Shadow King), but also revealing subtle clues from the nightmares of characters’ past, in this instance Callisto’s.  That is, what with Gateway being cursed to the service of the Reavers…

Figure 20_UXM269_Gateway bound to Reavers' service

…who were revealed as the Shadow King’s pawns in X-Treme X-Men Annual 2001…

Figure 21_XXMA2001_Donald Pierce as host to Shadow King

…was Claremont using the character as a plot device to subtly reveal their involvement in the past events of his characters?

What’s interesting about the scene with Callisto’s attackers in Uncanny X-Men #260 is that they’re wearing masks of the “Outback Team” of X-Men, Colossus, Havok, Wolverine, Storm, Psylocke, etc.

Figure 22_UXM260_Thugs wearing masks out Outback X-Men

At this time there were only two groups of X-Men villains who were aware of their survival from Dallas, the Reavers and Marauders.

With my having established Gateway’s “Dreamtime” contact, it would seem to make sense his influence was revealing villains mutual to both himself and the X-Men (sadly, Peter is still too Siege-lagged to interpret Gateway’s “vision”, and goes on to fall under the thrall of the Shadow King).

So when the attack on Callisto in Uncanny X-Men #260 is viewed from my above outlined perspective, things start falling into place, don’t they!

Now before I dive in, I’d suggest a much earlier scene written by Claremont in Callisto’s history provides us with further clues.

Recall in Callisto’s first appearance – Uncanny X-Men #169 – she has Angel kidnapped, stripped of his clothing and his primary feathers cut away in an effort to cripple him.

Figure 23_UXM169_Callisto's kidnapping of Angel

While this scene is explained as her wanting Warren as a “trophy husband”, there always seemed to be more behind her actions than she claimed.  So what if Callisto actually came to knowledge that the gang of her original attackers worked for a rich, blonde male member of the Hellfire Club who had gone on to become member of some super outlaw team?

Now recall in Uncanny X-Men #132 had Angel reveal that he was a member of the Hellfire Club, having inherited the membership from his parents.

Figure 24_UXM132_Angel reveals Hellfire Club membershipSo did Callisto learn of Warren’s Hellfire Club membership and jump to the wrong conclusion, ordering his kidnapping due to a case of mistaken identity?  And the rich, blonde she should really have kidnapped was CEO of Pierce-Consolidated Mining and White King of the Hellfire Club’s Inner Circle!

So let’s explore this a little further.  We know Pierce had a mad-on for mutants…

Figure 25a_UXM134_Donald Pierce hatred mutantsFigure 25b_UXM253_Donald Pierce hatred mutants

…most likely because he ended up an amputee through a less than positive “interaction” with one!  While this was somewhat revealed in Cable #49 by James Robinson…

Figure 26_CBL49_Donald Pierce reveals the mutant responsible for his condition

…the storyline and characters revealed as responsible were obviously not those intended by Claremont.

So what circumstances did Claremont intend to have caused Donald Pierce’s disablement, and his subsequent hatred of mutants?

Before I begin addressing this apparent abandoned plot, let me first turn my investigation to an interesting statement made by the Pierce from around our period in discussion, Uncanny X-Men #251, where he claims to have created the original Reavers; and that Pretty Boy, Skullbuster and Bonebreaker were the last of this original group.

Figure 27a_UXM251_Donald Pierce responsible for original Reavers

It is worth noting that the original Reavers did not just consist of the abovementioned three.  That is, Uncanny X-Men #229 earlier shows them as part of a much larger group of super-powered cyborgs.

Figure 27b_UXM229_Original Reavers

That same issue Claremont has Longshot express outrage toward the group about giving up their “birthright flesh” and replacing it with machinery, which I’d suggest was his way of indicating that the entire commando-style team of thieves started out as human.

Figure 27c_UXM229_original Reavers had been human

Given their cybernetic enhancements enabled them to become this super-commando team, I’d further suggest that when still purely human they were just a team of thieves.

So what were the circumstances of their own disablement that made them candidates for Pierce’s cybernetic enhancements?  I’m assuming by now you’ve deduced where I’m going with this.

That is, was Pierce and this gang of thieves that went on to become his original Reavers the same group of thugs hinted by Gateway to have been responsible for the attack on the supermodel that became the mutant Callisto?

I would suggest yes, and that the fractures, amputations and internal injuries, that required them to subject themselves to cybernetic enhancement, were sustained as a result of the supermodel’s mutant abilities manifesting during their sexual assault of her.

But, you ask, were members of the Reavers’ really capable of rape?

I’d answer that question by directing you to their very first appearance in Uncanny X-Men #229.  Pretty Boy especially had a penchant for making female victims more “pliable” to his suggestions, including the captured Jessan Hoan (his fibre-optic filaments burrowing into her brain and altering her sense of morality such that she went on to become Tyger Tiger, the new crime lord of Madripoor)…

Figure 28a_UXM229_Pretty Boy mind rape of Jessan Hoan

…Dazzler…

Figure 28b_UXM229_Pretty Boy attempted mind-rape of Dazzler

…Lady Deathstrike…

Figure 28c_UXM252_Pretty Boy attempted mind-rape of Lady Deathstrike

…Polaris…

Figure 28d_UXM255_Pretty Boy attempted mind-rape of Polaris

…Rogue…

Figure 28e_UXM269_Pretty Boy intending to mind-rape Rogue

…and Sage.

Figure 28f_XXMA2001_Pretty Boy about to mind-rape Sage

This would seem to suggest that Pretty Boy’s predatory behaviour towards females existed long before Pierce surgically provided him with the fibre-optic filaments that enabled him to burrow into a victim’s brain and alter their sense of morality, and that Donald in fact outfitted him with this enhancement as it played to his previous strengths.

In addition, Donald Pierce exhibited similarly creepy behaviour towards Lady Deathstrike, who acknowledged his control over her.

Figure 29a_UXM252_Donald Pierce controlling Lady DeathstrikeFigure 29b_UXM253_Donald Pierce with Lady Deathstrike

It’s worth noting that his first name, Donald, means “ruler of the world” and his surname Pierce is derived from the Greek Petros, the ammonite shila form by which Zeus was worshipped.

So there you have it, Donald Pierce and his gang of thieves, stumbling across the supermodel that went on to become Callisto while they were taking down one of their scores, decided to “sate their appetites” when her powers kicked in and she cut through them like a knife through butter, becoming the mutant responsible for the original Reavers!

Now while this resolves the circumstances of Callisto’s assault and subsequent transformation, Lila Cheney’s conception and eventual sale to D’Ken (and later escape from her intergalactic enslavement*), if this was Claremont’s plan, I’ve not yet addressed why Callisto didn’t attempt to track down her daughter after the abduction.  Well, while her mutant powers manifested during her sexual assault and she ended up permanently disabling her attackers, they’d be no match against the Marauders when those assassins came to abduct baby Lila from her for their employer, Mister Sinister.  While she’d have been able to put up a fight, recall during Claremont’s run these were the deadliest group of mutants the X-Men had ever faced and Callisto would have been alone against them.  While she survived the encounter, there’s no way she wouldn’t have walked away unscathed, so I’d suggest that it was this battle that was responsible for her missing right eye and the scars on her cheeks, most likely meted out by Sabretooth.

I’d even go a further step to suggest that, as it is unlikely for a sole fighter to survive an encounter with the Marauders, Callisto, despite sustaining her injuries, managed to flee from them into the sewers beneath Manhattan and kept running until she stumbled across one of the series of abandoned military tunnels constructed during the Cold War; the Marauders unable to track her and finish their job due to the Alley blocking psionic scanning.

Figure 30a_UXM169 212_Morlock tunnels psychic interference

Having now experienced two near-death attacks upon her person, by humans AND mutants, I’d posit that Callisto lost any sense of safety and so, like Harvey Elder, upon finding the security of the Alley, decided to create a makeshift home there. And after encountering Caliban, Sunder, Masque and Plague who similarly fled there to avoid human persecution, with their help went on to form the community of mutant outcasts called the Morlocks.

So could this be the reason for the later Morlock Massacre?  That is, Callisto is perhaps the first one (i.e. mutant) that got away from an assassination ordered by Mister Sinister.  So when he eventually heard rumours of her established community of mutant outcasts, he ordered it wiped out from existence.

Post-script: As to the circumstances of Lila Cheney’s eventual escape from her enslavement as a human gladiator in the Shi’ar Imperium, I’d suggest Claremont also provides the answer to that plot thread in Uncanny X-Men #276, in particular the scene where upon her hesitation to teleport away after Deathbird commands her to, thereby abandoning Gambit and Jubilee to defend themselves against Gladiator and War-Skrull Xavier (despite the two X-Men having freed them from imprisonment), the Majestrix guilts her into action by reminding Lila of her pledge of loyalty and service to her.

Figure 30_UXM276_Lila's pledge to Deathbird

While leaving behind these two new members of the X-Men might be able to be overlooked once, given she has never met them before, Lila bails out on team members she has previously worked alongside again when they are under attack by Warskrull agents on a further occasion in this issue.  Twice when they are in desperate need of assistance seems entirely out of character for the Lila we have previously known.  That is, unless Deathbird was the one who helped her escape from her original intergalactic enslavement!  And if D’Ken as I posit was the one who placed Lila into gladiatorial enslavement in the first place, releasing a victim of the brother who unseated her from the Shi’ar throne and procuring them as an ally would seem entirely ‘in character’ for the Deathbird we know, and love.  In fact Deathbird’s behaviour as written by Claremont during the entire War-Skrull storyline (officially titled “Crossroads”) makes me believe that D’Ken was behind the murder of his mother and unnamed sister, and he orchestrated events so that Deathbird, next in line to the Shi’ar throne, would take the blame and he could take her place as Emperor.  After all, it is rather interesting that she ends up exiled to the planet her brother had a Shi’ar agent running agendas for him!  But that, I’m afraid, will have to be a FIX for another time;)

Post-postscript: As for Masque’s transformation of Callisto into her former supermodel self, I’d suggest he didn’t just do this so he could take leadership of the Morlocks from her, but also at the Shadow King’s behest so that Peter would fall in love with her thus enabling them to manipulate him to provide them with access codes to the X-Mansion’s underground basement.  Despite Masque’s defeat in Uncanny X-Men #263…

Figure 31_UXM263_Masque's defeat

…and what would appear to be a happy ending for Peter and Callisto in Uncanny X-Men #264…

Figure 32_UXM264_Callisto and Colossus's happy ending

…when next we see him it becomes clear that Masque’s scheme has worked despite Gateway’s efforts, and Colossus has indeed fallen under the Shadow King’s thrall:(

Figure 33_UXM279_Colossus under the Shadow King's thrall

 

 

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…The Dane Curse?

Figure 00

When Polaris was introduced it was revealed that she was Magneto’s daughter, firstly by Mesmero in X-Men #50…

Figure 01

…and then by the master of magnetism himself in X-Men #51.

Figure 02

In X-Men #52 Iceman suggests that both villains had lied and that Lorna’s parents had actually died and she had been adopted by her father’s sister and brother-in-law…

Figure 03

… further supported by the revelation in X-Men #58 that the Magneto who partnered with Mesmero and claimed to be her father had actually been a robot.

Figure 04

Figure 05

And that was pretty much the state of affairs for the next thirty plus years, until a convoluted series of stories in recent years which have stupidly revealed Lorna’s mother apparently having had an affair with the self-styled master of magnetism, making her Magneto’s daughter after all.

But that’s not the end of the matter.

In Astonishing Tales #3, we were introduced to a character named Zaladane who was a priestess of the sun god, Garokk, and a member of his tribe of Savage Land followers.

Figure 06

After floating around in the background for over a decade, playing a small role as Garokk’s high priestess, Chris Claremont brought her forward into the spotlight, initially in Uncanny X-Men Annual #12 where the High Evolutionary introduced her to Havok as his assistant Zala…

Figure 07a

…during his plot to restore the then barren Savage Land to its former state during the Evolutionary War.

Figure 07b

She came face to face with the X-Man Havok during this time, who found her strangely familiar looking.

Figure 07c

Zaladane remained out of most of the action fighting in this Annual, content with the power that had become hers as the High Evolutionary’s second-in-command.  However it was at this point she began her association with the Savage Land Mutates.

Figure 07d

Claremont then follows this story up with a two-part storyline in Uncanny X-Men #249-250 (“The Dane Curse”) with Zaladane as the main villain, having Lorna Dane captured…

Figure 08a

…and brought to the Savage Land…

Figure 08b

…where her real name is not only revealed as Zala Dane…

Figure 08c

…but she addresses Lorna as her long-lost sister whom she has “searched the world for”.

Figure 08d

In the following issue she uses the High Evolutionary’s Transmutator, a machine capable of transferring superpowers from one individual to a genetically compatible match, to steal Lorna’s magnetic powers and graft them onto herself.

It is also here that Havok can’t help but notice a family resemblance between the two.

Figure 09b

But Polaris obviously had no clue about Zaladane being her sister since she showed as much surprise as readers at the suggestion.

Figure 09c

However, a few issues later, in Uncanny X-Men #254, Lorna makes it to Muir Island where Moira MacTaggert checks her over carefully and asserts that Zaladane “must” have been some sort of close relative for the power transfer to have worked.

Figure 10

While we know from X-Men #52 that Lorna was actually adopted by her aunt, fans have used this to suggest that Zaladane was her aunt’s daughter and therefore Lorna’s cousin, who had acquired her aunt’s married surname.

However, in terms of genetics first cousins have 12.5% of each other’s genes (implying, inversely, that 87.5% of their genes are different), whereas siblings have 50% of their genes in common with one another.

Figure 11

So these hints Claremont adds, particularly Moira’s comments, would all seem to point to him intending Zaladane to be Lorna Dane’s sister, and not her cousin.

Claremont has Zaladane return eighteen months later, in Uncanny X-Men #274, trying to steal Magneto’s powers as well…

Figure 12a

…though she was ultimately defeated and killed.

Figure 12b

Again fans’ theories claim that if her power-stealing technique was workable at all with Magneto, this was meant to be a heavy hint on Claremont’s part that Zaladane, Polaris, and Magneto were in fact all closely related. In recent years this has led to the whole long-discredited assertion about Lorna being Magneto’s daughter being dusted off and not only waved in our faces by Chuck Austen, who is on record as having been the worst writer on any core X-title in history, but made established continuity by Peter David.

However, I would argue that Claremont did not mean to hint at this at all, and here’s why!

During his swan song, in X-Men #2, he had made a big deal that Moira MacTaggert had taken genetic samples from Magneto after he had been reverted to infancy in an attempt to cure the instability in his central nervous system caused by his manipulation of the Earth’s magnetic field which had been responsible for his becoming a villain.

Figure 13a

Moira was too thorough to have not cross-referenced Lorna’s DNA during her countless periods on Muir Isle with those she had of Magnus’s, particularly after claims during her introduction as his daughter.

Figure 13b

Nevertheless, Claremont’s first run on Uncanny X-Men ended not long after this, so we never discovered his plans for the true familial connection between Polaris and Zaladane.

If Lorna is her long-lost sister, however, one can adduce that Zala’s father was similarly the sister of the couple that adopted Lorna.

But despite general fan consensus, this is not the only clue we have.

That is, there is one additional clue which has been RIGHT THERE since Zaladane’s introduction…

…the meaning of her name…

While it initially seemed to be an insignificant, arbitrary collection of syllables, upon further analysis one finds the last syllable “dane” means “valley dweller” which could suggest her and Lorna’s ancestors originate from a valley.

Where that valley could be is anyone’s guess until one looks to Zala’s first name which means “beautiful” in Slovene.  So her full name would mean “beautiful valley dweller” (certainly NOT out of the realm of possibility for parents to name their daughter).

This leads to the question: Is there a “valley” in the Balkan region that has been the setting of any stories, or identified as the birthplace of any characters, within the Marvel Universe?

Well not necessarily, until one considers the valley that shared a western border with Yugoslavia which Slovene was considered to be part of at the time of both characters’ introductions.

This valley was below Wundagore Mountain, and was otherwise known as Transia!

Figure 14a

Figure 14b

Figure 14c

So might this suggest that Transia was the birthplace of either siblings, or at least their parents?

And if their parents ARE from Transia, might they already be established characters in the Marvel Universe?

While there are perhaps a number of famous candidates for their father, it would seem unlikely that it is Phillip Masters, the Fantastic Four supervillain known as the Puppet Master, since after marrying Alicia’s mother, the couple went on to have NO children of their own.

Figure 14d

One could argue the same for Django and Marya Maximoff as they were already accounted for as parents, having adopted the twins Wanda and Pietro, otherwise known as the Scarlet Witch & Quicksilver, from the High Evolutionary after the their mother Magda’s disappearance.

Figure 14ei

That leaves the High Evolutionary himself, Herbert Wyndham.

Figure 14f

But while he knew who Zaladane was when he engaged her as his lab assistant during the Evolutionary War, he did NOT appear to show any paternal instinct toward her.  It is interesting that he DID show paternal feelings at this time to Alex Summers though, the boyfriend of Lorna Dane.  In addition, his surname is not “Dane”.  However, given the fabrications Wanda and Pietro were told with regard to their own biological origins, he could very well have paid Lorna’s adopted parents to change their surname to “Dane” and take on the youngster.

But more on this later, since for now I wish to turn to their mother, a character for whom there was no mention made before the end of Claremont’s first run.

Since Lorna is blissfully unaware of her true origins, to investigate this question I feel we need to look more to Zaladane who was at least aware she had a sister, and for some time apparently given her claim in Uncanny X-Men #249 that she had been searching “the world for you, dear sister”.

Very little was known about the past of Zaladane by the end of Claremont first run.  While not a native of the Savage Land, the circumstances and timing of her arrival in the prehistoric land hidden within Antarctica have yet to be revealed.

One thing is clear though, the dark-haired beauty was mad for power.

So is this a trait she inherited from one of her parents…

…her mother perhaps?!

It is interesting to note that Claremont penned another story closely similar in its attempt to resolve a familial connection back in 1982.  I’m speaking about where he brings the Viper into the pages of Spider-Woman from issue #42, having Jessica interfering with her operations, during which time several characters note the remarkable similarity between the two women.  In her private thoughts Claremont repeatedly has Viper lament over how much she loved Jessica, even while outwardly demanding her death.

Figure 15a

The “truth” then comes in issue #44 that the terrorist, and all-around nihilist, had been possessed 50 years earlier on Mount Wundagore by Chthon who had planned to use her in an unexplained way to free him from his arcane prison within the mount.  But for some reason the demon-spirit found some flaw within Viper that put an end to his being able to use her to end his extradimensional exile.

Figure 15b

Less than a year later J.M. Dematteis retcons Viper being Spider-Woman’s mother in Captain America #281, revealing that Morgan Le Fay had actually implanted her with false memories that she had mothered Jessica on behalf of Chthon.

Figure 16

With his plot nixed, did Claremont then decide to carry it on through the mystery of Lorna and Zaladane’s unrevealed origins?

If so, I’d suggest he would reveal that Viper’s memories weren’t entirely false and Chthon had not implanted the memory of her being a mother but instead the identity of whom she and her daughter had been.

But why the Drews…

To answer this, we perhaps need to go back to why Viper was on Mount Wundagore in the first place, and what of her background up to Claremont leaving had been.

Throughout Viper’s career as a terrorist, in her Marvel comic appearances, she had consistently been shown to use neurotoxins and haemotoxins derived from reptiles.

Figure 17a

Figure 17b

Figure 17c

Figure 17d

But she had never been shown to employ anyone to produce these on her behalf.

This would seem to suggest she had an innate understanding of toxins which may suggest she was secretly an accomplished biochemist herself.

So I’d suggest it works something like this…

After surviving her family’s murder during an unnamed revolution in Europe, the woman who would become Viper came to settle in the valley below Mount Wundagore, Transia.  But while she had escaped with her life, I would posit that the scarring she sustained on the right side of her face was a result of being raped while crossing the border which resulted in her becoming pregnant.

Figure 18

As for when, I’d suggest that it coincided with Jonathon Drew’s departure from Mount Wundagore after the 6th century sorcerer, Magnus, relinquished control of his body after successfully re-binding Chthon within the mountain once again.

Figure 19a

This was in 1958.

But Spider-Woman #44 revealed Viper had been possessed fifty years earlier by Chthon which, since the issue was set in 1982, would mean she arrived on Mount Wundagore as far back as 1932.  However, no revolutions in Europe occurred just prior to this time, the closest being the Klaipėda Revolt which took place in 1923 in Prussia and approximately 1,200kms from Transia.

I’d instead argue that Chthon had lied about how long he’d controlled Viper for and she had in fact arrived in Transia toward the end of Magnus and the High Evolutionary’s Knights of Wundagore’s campaign against the demon-spirit.

Figure 19b

If so, the most likely revolution Viper had escaped with her life from is the Hungarian Revolution.

So she arrives in Transia with a young daughter, and is perhaps even witness to the battle.

She struggles to make ends meet after escaping her home and, with an additional mouth to feed in the form of her young daughter, she takes to a life of petty crime such as stealing which continues when she arrives in the valley of Transia.

After settling in the village, she hears rumours of a tower of marvels and thinks she’s hit the payload.  And so it is not long before she makes her way up the mount to break into the High Evolutionary’s “Tower”.

Figure 20a

However, she is discovered by his New Men, who bring her before their master.

Figure 20b

But instead of turning her over to the village’s authorities, he is struck by her appearance and so begins further conversation with her.  Discovering she has an innate flair for biochemistry he encourages her to move into the citadel with her daughter, Zala, and takes her under his wing, having her eventually fill Jonathon’s role as his laboratory assistant.

Having not previously used his Genetic Accelerator on reptiles due to his concern about how aggressive a fully grown Serpent-Man might become, he entrusts her to begin researching how this issue might be overcome.

During their time working together the two fall in love, get married in the citadel and Viper goes on to become pregnant with their daughter.

Unbeknownst to Herbert though, she co-opts the study she has been tasked with to develop a serum derived from reptilian cells to heal the scarring on the right side of her face.  Since the mountain is abundant with vipers (specifically vipera ammodytes which are native to the Balkan region), they become the specimens she exploits for her experiments.  But after countless efforts she is unable to fully ameliorate her facial disfigurement.  However, she does develop a deep affinity for the viper (her studies of
them leading to her becoming an expert in neurotoxins and haemotoxins).

Still tormented by her facial scarring though…

Figure 21a

…she becomes distant from Herbert, obsessed with resolving it.  Due to scientific efforts
being unable to resolve it for her, she recalls her arrival in the village and the battle with Chthon and Herbert recounting how young Jessica’s father, Jonathon, had used the Darkhold to rebind the demon-spirit after Baron Russoff, their neighbour, had used it to attempt to release him.

Figure 21b

One night, telling Herbert she is after additional specimens for her studies, she instead makes her way to Russoff’s castle and, using her skills learned while on the run, breaks in and steals the Darkhold.  She then performs the book’s Spell of Ascension but some flaw within her prevents Chthon from being able to break free from his Earthly prison.

As for what the flaw in Viper is, I’d suggest it is connected to the serpent serum she used on herself in her efforts to cure her facial scarring.  That is, since the serum she injects herself with is derived from vipers living around Mount Wundagore, I would posit that the snakes have been irradiated by the same mineral that similarly binds Chthon within the mountain.  However, while the large mineral stores in Wundagore were previously believed to be uranium, I’d posit they are in fact vibranium (in line with my Grand Unified Vibranium Theory and I’ll explain why further down).

But Viper does succeed in summoning the demon-spirit and begs him to cure her facial scarring.  He agrees to only if she hands over the daughter she currently carries (i.e. Lorna) once born, which in desperation she agrees to.  But as most deals with demons
go, and while her scarring vanishes, she doesn’t quite get what she bargained for.

The spell over, Viper returns to the “Tower” where she is supported by Herbert and Bova to give birth; but upon doing so the demon appears in the birthing chamber to claim baby Lorna as his own.

Sensing Chthon, the sorcerer Magnus returns from the spirit-world once more and this time enters the High Evolutionary, using Herbert’s armoured body to protect Lorna and bear her to a chamber in the citadel where he exposes the infant to a sample of vibranium from the Earth surrounding the mountain.  This immediately protects the child from Chthon’s attempted possession, and it has the additional outcome of turning her hair momentarily green (which occurs again, but this time permanently, when her magnetic powers manifest).

The immediate threat of Chthon having passed, Magnus leaves Herbert’s body but not before explaining to him what has occurred and how vibranium deposits from the surrounds of Mount Wundagore, but not the core, act as a deterrent to the demon.

Since Chthon is unable to claim Lorna, the bargain defaults immediately to Viper who he goes on to possess and when Herbert goes to comfort her she suddenly becomes cold, aloof, distant and detached toward him.  From now on she has no free will and her sole existence is that she will be employed as his puppet, the demon forcing her to carry out his bidding while still retaining a sliver of true humanity in the back of her mind.

As Chthon’s first act in possession of Viper’s body, he compels her to open a portal to his prison using the black orb he has replaced her right eye (similarly damaged when her face was scarred from her assault during the Hungarian Revolution) after Magnus has relinquished control of the High Evolutionary’s body so he can be sent to his domain.

Figure 22

But Herbert manages to overpower her once he dons his armour.  Upset, but similarly enraged that his wife is now beyond his reach and the fact that she was willing to sacrifice their daughter to the demon, he banishes her from the citadel.  While refusing to let her take Lorna he is unable to stop her from taking the older Zala with her.

And so it is Viper leaves Mount Wundagore and the village of Transia with daughter Zala, going on to become agent of Hydra and eventual international terrorist.

Figure 23

Worried that Viper will be compelled by Chthon to eventually return for young Lorna, the High Evolutionary decides it much safer if he adopts her out as he had done with the children of Magneto.  But he decides much further away is necessary this time.  He seeks the counsel of his dear friend Jonathon Drew who approaches his sister who lives in New Haven, Connecticut with her husband who were unable to have children of their own.  Believing it is better to hide her in plain sight, Herbert and Jonathon decide it is best Lorna goes by the surname of her mother and sister, which is Dane, believing if Viper does decide to hunt Lorna down she is unlikely to look for a family with her own surname.  Their plot hatched, Herbert organises the paperwork so Drew’s sister and her husband become “Dane’s” after which they to move from New Haven to prevent anyone drawing conclusions that she has been placed her relatives of Jonathon.  And so it is that Jonathon’s sister and her husband move to southern California where they go on to raise young Lorna.

Over the years Chthon’s hold on Viper begins to weaken, and in the back of her mind she begins developing a desire to be reunited with her daughter/s.

Figure 24

Chthon is not happy about the idea, though, given his inability to possess the siblings due to their relative exposure to vibranium.

Also, in addition to realising he’ll be unable to convince Viper that she had never been on Wundagore due to their pact the demon recalls another child had lived at the citadel he could use to free himself from his mountain prison… young Jessica Drew.  Given her father Jonathon’s own involvement in hiding Lorna, the demon-spirit feels a delicious irony at the prospect and so implants memories in Viper’s mind that she is in fact Merriem his wife and not the estranged wife of the High Evolutionary.  He even goes so far as to mystically adjust Viper’s facial appearance to be more like the adult Jessica to make the memory real not only to Viper but others around both of them as well.

Does this not provide a much more intellectually-satisfying resolution to the 30 years plus mystery for how Viper came to believe she was Merriem Drew and Spider-Woman was her daughter than the retconned explanation we received from J.M. Dematteis in Captain America #281!?

As for Zala Dane, living under the influence of an agent of Chthon she cannot help but develop a similar nature to that of her sociopathic mother.  Having two such personalities living in the same household causes problems however, leading to Zala leaving her mother who goes on to eventually join the terrorist hordes of Hydra.

Having learned of the mutative effects of the mineral of Mount Wundagore while herself taking an interest in geophysics while living in the High Evolutionary’s citadel, I would posit that Zala independently discovers it is vibranium and comes to understand that she has developed mild psionic abilities as a result of her exposure to the radiation it emits from the Mount.

And so, after leaving her mother, she develops similar plans for world domination and comes to believe the mineral will enable her to fully achieve these goals.

Realising she can never return to Transia due to the mountain being under the protection of the High Evolutionary’s Knights of Wundagore…

Figure 25

…and the vibranium mound in Wakanda being similarly protected by the Panther Cult…

Figure 26

…she comes to learn of the Antarctic variant (perhaps by meeting Parnival Plunder) and so travels to the hidden prehistoric land there.

Figure 27

While there she learns of the Sun-People’s god Garokk whom she comes to believe has the power to draw forth the land’s vibranium deposits.  And so using her psionic abilities, which she convinces others are magical skills, she manipulates herself to become their high priestess.

However, upon Garokk returning to the Savage Land she found she couldn’t easily control him and so after his death…

Figure 28

…she had the tribe’s acolytes kidnap radiologist Kirk Marston (who previously helped Ka-Zar defeat the villain Klaw, another vibranium mutate), and exposes him to the liquid from the black pool beneath their city.  Upon being transformed into the Sun God…

Figure 29

…she effectively exerts her control over him using her vibranium-induced psionic abilities and begins compelling him to take over the whole Savage Land.  Despite her psionic abilities leading Garokk to make significant progress in unknowingly helping her achieve her long-term goals…

Figure 30

…Ka-Zar’s allies the X-Men manage to defeat Garokk not once, but twice.

Realising Garokk is not bringing her the success she so desperately craves Zaladane begins changing her game plan.

Taking control of her cult she next allies herself with Sauron…

Figure 31

…who she learns of Polaris from, and ends up deducting the mutant mistress of magnetism is her younger sister left behind on Wundagore.

She then attempts to track her down after her defeat at the hands of the X-Men once again, with the aim of exploiting Lorna’s magnetic powers so she can draw forth all of the Savage Land’s vibranium and use it to threaten the world’s governments if they do not hand control over to her…

…but the trail goes cold once Polaris is possessed by Malice and recruited to lead Mister Sinister’s Marauders, the psionic entity managing to block Zaladane’s psionic tracking.

Figure 32

Once Mister Sinister was seemingly killed during the crisis known as “Inferno” though, Malice’s hold over Polaris weakened, leading to Lorna gaining the upper hand and being able to contact the X-Men for help.

Figure 33

As soon as this occurred, Lorna came back on Zaladane’s radar and her capture by the Savage Land Mutates was almost instantaneous.

And so there you have it, the mystery behind Zaladane and Polaris, and “The Dane Curse” finally resolved after some 25 years!

But I’m not done yet since as there’s still Malice!

Figure 34aIt’s pretty obvious that Chris Claremont drew his inspiration for this character from science fiction author Piers Anthony’s first published novel, Chthon, which was nominated for both the Nebula and Hugo Awards for Best Novel in 1968.

Figure 34bIn this story the main protagonist commits the crime of falling in love with a strange and extremely beautiful woman in the forest named Malice and is therefore condemned to death in the subterranean prison of Chthon.  The protagonist comes to discover that Malice is a legendary and dangerous siren called a minionette, which are females all identical to each other and semi-telepathic, their beauty and youth maintained eternally by negative emotions, whereas positive emotions cause them pain and sufficiently intense love kills them.

I’d therefore posit that Malice is Lorna’s twin sister and she became a being of pure psionic energy while a foetus in her mother’s womb, as a result of Viper’s possession by Chthon, his evil energy making it so that she was able to merge with the negative emotional instincts of others, overriding their personalities and taking control of their bodies.  Her being Lorna’s twin would finally explain why Malice’s energy matrix was so compatible with Polaris’s powers and, if we go by Moira’s theory in Uncanny X-Men #254 about Zaladane, how the two became so easily grafted together, effectively inseparable.  This would further explain why, when Malice attempted to leave Lorna…

Figure 35

…Mister Sinister informed her that he was aware of the connection and that was why he had suggested their union in the first place, telling her that she is “the unchanging pole star”.

Figure 36

We have never previously understood quite what Sinister meant by this phrase, but now it becomes so damned obvious.  Polaris, the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor, is a BINARY STAR, a system which consists of two stars orbiting around their common centre of mass.  So when Davan Shakari (Eric the Red) gave Lorna the codename Polaris…

Figure 37

… he obviously knew she was a twin and that she would come to be psionically bonded to her.  Sinister obviously also knew Lorna and Malice were twins, but as to how he discovered this and what destiny his bringing them together pointed to, don’t you think it’s time I was offered a break;)

This has been Nathan Summers, continuing to live up to the sobriquet of “He Who Can Explain Every Claremont Dangler Given Enough Time”!

Postscript: Incidentally, Wyndham means “village near the Winding Way”.  Given Herbert Edgar Wyndham established his citadel of science on Mount Wundagore, above the village of Transia, might this finally suggest it was there that Chris Claremont intended Margali Szardos to have also been born!?